West Ham United’s 3-0 home loss at the hands of Burnley was embarrassing for a number of reasons, but the behaviour of some supporters was simply despicable. The match was marred by constant pitch invasions, fighting in the stands, and abuse of the owners, a sad throwback to an era of football that many thought was firmly in the past.
The West Ham faithful are understandably displeased with the state of their club. The Hammers have endured a disastrous season which has left the side teetering precipitously outside of the relegation zone. A dreadful run of three straight defeats, where West Ham have conceded 11 and scored just two, has led to a poisonous atmosphere in East London.
But more than anything, the majority of the angst is centered against the board. A perceived lack of quality investment, an over-reliance on washed-up former stars, and a failure to replace key departures are chief on the list of grievances.
And on top of all this, the club was relocated from their spiritual home of Upton Park in 2016, moving to the characterless London Stadium – a ground far more suited to athletics than football.
All of these reasons certainly give West Ham supporters cause for concern, as they watch their club fall apart before their eyes. Yet there can be absolutely no sympathy for the despicable actions of a select group of supporters over the weekend.
Pitch invasions are never acceptable, and the supporters who took it upon themselves to disrupt their own players are the epitome of stupidity. Anyone who watched Mark Noble’s emotional interview following the match understands the psychological effect pitch invasions can have on footballers – the West Ham captain felt the need to have to protect himself.
In addition, the owners faced violent protests directly outside their box, with David Sullivan even hit in the face by a coin thrown from the mob, as reported by the Daily Mail. No matter what one thinks of Sullivan’s management of the club, violence is never an appropriate response.
There were visible scenes of young supporters fleeing to the Burnley bench to evade fighting in the stands, and further reports that the Metropolitan police received two allegations of assault and a female steward found herself knocked to the ground.
While it must be acknowledged that this trouble was only caused by a select number of West Ham fans, with the rest being thoroughly decent supporters and people, the entire debacle will do no favours to West Ham’s bid to remain in the Premier League.
West Ham’s next two matches in front of the poisonous home crowd? Southampton and Stoke. If crowd trouble persists during these vital six-pointers, then the Hammers might be facing the possibility of Championship football for the first time since 2012.